Duo arrested for suspected auto theft ring

Mission investigators use GPS to string 10 cases together

McAllen police arrested a duo that investigators say used specialized reprogramming technology to steal vehicles across McAllen and Mission with remote entry systems.

Police say that Raul Aguila, 24, and Angel Garabitos, 31, have stolen 10 cars since April using uncut key fobs. Some of the vehicles they’re accused of stealing include a 2018 Nissan Altima, 2016 Infiniti QX80 and a 2019 Infiniti QX80 — all of which unlock and start with a remote keypad.

Both men were arrested on May 24 and were each charged for one count of unlawful use of criminal instruments, six counts of theft of property worth between $30 and $150,000 and four counts of theft of property worth between $2,500 and $30,000.

Investigators were able to unravel the case, they say, after contacting the car dealership of the vehicle seen in surveillance videos that captured the theft, and by using its company-wide GPS tracking system to string together 10 recent car thefts in the cities.

A McAllen resident whose 2019 Infiniti QX80 was stolen on May 14 offered footage from their home surveillance camera, which caught Aguila and Garabitos pulling up to their driveway at 1:55 a.m. in a silver Acura TL, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Police say that Aguila can be seen in the footage breaking and entering into the driver’s seat of the vehicle.

“The Infinity was being programmed with some form of machine technology,” the affidavit stated. “The front dashboard lights flashed multiple times in a synchronized manner… The front headlights were then ignited immediately after the sync occurred and the Infiniti’s ignition was engaged.”

About five minutes later that day, both the 2019 Infiniti QX80 and Acura TL were seen in the surveillance footage of a nearby Stripes.

Most of these acts were committed at around 2 a.m., police say.

During the investigation, the McAllen police auto theft unit then reached out to Mission police and investigators, who reported five cases of stolen Infiniti vehicles in the past couple of months. On May 19, a Mission sergeant spotted an Acura TL with paper plates driving southbound on Conway Avenue.

So, police reviewed surveillance footage of the Mission Sanitation Center, which faces that street on May 14. They saw the same Acura TL being followed by a gray 2019 Infiniti QX80, according to the charging document.

Investigators also said in the police report that they saw an Acura TL parked in a Mission home close to where the recent cases of auto thefts were being reported. Several surveillance videos show the Acura TL returning back to that location multiple times with different vehicles following each day, the probable cause affidavit stated.

The paper license plate was registered to Maria Espino, who was found to “have relations” with Garabitos.

With the plate number, police say they learned that Espino purchased the Acura TL at Carmart in Pharr. The owner of the car dealership said a GPS tracking system is installed in each of their vehicles and provided investigators with tracking information of the car — the speeds, times, dates and coordinates of when and where they used the car since April were included.

The data matched the locations and dates of 10 recent auto thefts in both cities, police say.

The GPS information also revealed that they used the Acura TL to make two recent trips to Iman Auto Parts in Brownsville. The owner of the local auto parts service shop remembered Aguila and Garabito’s visit clearly because of their “different ethnic background described as having Cuban descent,” according to the police record.

The shop’s surveillance video also showed that following their car was an Infiniti QX80 and Infiniti Q50 — the latter matched a recently stolen Mission vehicle, according to police.

Knowing of the ongoing investigation, on May 24, a McAllen police officer identified the silver Acura TL and pulled them over after they failed to make a complete stop at a stop sign. The police then discovered that the paper license plate, which was expired, matched that of the vehicle they had been looking for, according to the report.

Aguila, who was in the passenger seat, also admitted to smoking marijuana about an hour before.

“Both occupants in the vehicle were extremely nervous,” the report stated.

A black bag in the rear seat of the car was found with a SuperOBD Key Programmer, a couple of uncut Infiniti key fobs, another for a Nissan vehicle, a Swiss tech glass breaker and black gloves inside.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the pair have been seen crossing the border multiple times recently, according to the report.

Garabitos confessed that they would take the stolen vehicles to Mexico, which according to reports, were “exchanged for $2,000 with an unknown person in Mexico named Mario.”

The report stated that they made a total of $20,000, which was split between them.

It was also noted that Garabitos was unfamiliar with the McAllen area. Aguila has opted to remain silent.

Aguila was found to have an outstanding warrant from Miami for a probation violation offense for a grand theft motor vehicle.

Aguila remains jailed on a total of $215,000 in bonds. Garabitos is free on bond, and has been released twice — first on a $30,000 bond, then a day after his release on a $50,000 bond.